Plan quality process
The quality management process group consists of three processes, Plan Quality being the first, followed by the perform quality assurance and perform quality control. The process group is founded on a handful of leading edge quality theories, where the emphasis is on preventing errors rather than merely inspecting. The project manager is responsible and accountable for the project quality and for providing appropriate resources to ensure such quality is met and delivered.
Plan quality determines what the project’s quality requirements and specifications are, and how all they will be met to ensure that the project end product has an acceptable level of quality.
To ensure that quality is planned in from the very beginning, this process is performed early in the project and in parallel with all of the other planning processes. The reason why this is important is that the required quality will dictate other performance aspects of the project such as time, cost, scope and risk.
There are seven inputs to the plan quality process:
This is the main input to plan quality, as the scope baseline defines the project requirements along with their acceptance criteria. Since we are concerned here with planning to ensure that the products and deliverables meet the quality criteria, then the scope baseline is vital to understand precisely what deliverables are to be included.
Cost performance baseline.
As described above, quality and scope are closely aligned, and this as a result of any changes to the scope, but these will need to be evaluated against the budget and the schedule.
For the same reasons as above the schedule baseline will need to be evaluated against any changes to the scope.
The stakeholder register contains information on all of the stakeholders along with their particular interest areas and expertise. Therefore, the stakeholder register will help identify those with an interest or expertise in the quality requirements of particular products, as well as those with expertise in quality and hence will need to collaborate with the plan quality process.
Meeting quality requirements poses risk to the project. For this reason, the risk register will identify quality-related risks and in particular, those relating to customer acceptance. Although not listed as an output for this particular process, it is likely that a new or modified quality-related risks will be added to the risk register as a result of the plan quality process.
Organisational process assets.
Key areas here is a reference to the organizations quality policy which should be applied to this particular project in plan quality. In addition lessons learned, templates, and previous similar quality management plans for previous projects will aid the structure, approach and content of the quality management plan.
Enterprise environmental factors.
The quality expectations of the project stakeholders should be considered here including the environment within which the project’s end-product is to operate. As a simple example, an electric pump working deep underground would need quality attributes such as near zero maintenance, high reliability, and premium materials. Whereas a similar pump used at ground level would focus on quality attributes such as cheap to run and easy to replace.
There are five outputs from the plan quality process:
Quality management plan.
This is the main output from the plan quality process as it describes in detail how an organization’s quality policy will be met and forms part of the project management plan.
These will be entirely dependent upon the nature of the products to be created, and therefore the measurements described here could cover any criteria or metric. Since the success or otherwise of the project will depend upon its meeting the quality metrics, then careful thought should be given when describing the quality metrics in the plan quality process. For a start they must be measurable in some way. Any ambiguity hear will be open to interpretation later, and will normally lead to cost overruns and delays.
The process improvement plan.
This links in with the concept of ‘the learning organisation’ and is therefore a form of lessons learned. The process improvement plan forms part of the project management plan, and lays out exactly how quality activities will be refined, streamlined, and improved both for this, and future projects.
Quality check lists.
As the name suggests this checklist is there to make sure that all steps were performed and carried out in the correct sequence. The quality check lists are created in the plan quality process and implemented in the process ‘perform quality control’.
The project document updates.
As a consequence of completing the process plan quality, other players and documents may need to be updated particularly the quality management plan and the process improvement plan.
There are nine tools that are used in the plan quality process:
These were developed originally to ensure that ANY process is statistically ‘in control’, and these charts which are in the form of a graph, showing whether or not a process is in control. They are often used within the manufacturing environment where the manufactured product undergoes a series of creation steps before it is ready to be shipped to the customer.
For the process of manufacture to be under control, then it must be checked, usually by sampling, that the resulting product falls within quality limits.
Suppose an automated machine created bars of metal that were to be 10 inches in length plus or minus, say, one 10th of an inch. If after inspection a significant number of these bars fell outside those limits, then the root cause needs to be found. Control charts can be used here to plot and discover such errors.
The control charts plots statistical variations, and if the measurements fall outside of the control limits, then the process is out of control and the cause of such deviation must be determined.
Standard deviation is used here to determine if a processes in control:
These show graphically how the components relate to each other within a system, and are used to predict where quality problems may happen. Cause and effect diagram is an example of flowcharting.
Cost benefit analysis.
PMBOK states that products should not be ‘gold plated’, meaning that extra work and cost to produce a quality which is greater than that which would be acceptable to the customer, is wasteful and often the cause for project cost and schedule overruns. The mindset here is that the cost of all quality activities within a project must be outweighed or at least equaled by the benefits obtained.
This means that no activities should be performed that would equal or cost more as the expected benefits. To use a business term, this cost benefit analysis should show that the level of quality is viable from a cost perspective and is vital in the process plan quality.
It is helpful to see cost benefit analysis as a set of scales that need to be balanced; on the one side the cost of achieving the expected quality, and on the other side benefits such as customer acceptance, lowered costs and rework reduction.
Cost of quality (CoQ).
As the name suggests, this technique identifies all of the costs in order to achieve the appropriate level of quality. Examples here are cost of materials and equipment, inspecting and audit, etc.
Benchmarking is simply a quality standard reference that is used for the current project. This may be a benchmark used within the performing organization, or one that is used across a specific industry.
The value of using this technique is to compare the current project’s quality standards with those of other similar projects.
Design of experiments (DOE).
This is a complex and specialist area but is an important technique in plan quality. By the use of data analysis, optimal conditions for the creation of products within this project are determined by data analysis.
This technique is used in plan quality rather than conducting a series of individual trials to determine system optimization A serious of structured tests are created and planned input changes are made to the process while observing and assessing the output. The focus here is on the output significance based on variable inputs and their combination.
The purpose here is to avoid measuring everything within a product or system, but merely to select a random sample and to treat this as representative of all units. The purpose here is to cut down on the number of measurements that need to be taken, and hence is a more reflective method to measure quality.
Proprietary quality management methodologies.
You need not worry too much about this for the exam, but merely to note that everything covered here is the methodology of PMBOK, but acknowledging that other proprietary approaches to quality can also be used.
Additional quality planning tools.
Similar to the above point, there are many other tools that help in the plan quality process, but your only need to mount those mentioned here for the PMP exam itself.
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David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for US multinationals and now develops a wide range of project-related video training products under the Primer brand. In addition, David runs training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management. He currently lives in Spain with his wife Jude.